The International Space Station has been one of mankind’s most prominent tools to gaze outward into the universe, gathering information about what it means to survive out of Earth’s atmosphere. Over the past year, UrtheCast, a technology company, has used that tool, and their own high-definition cameras, to capture high-definition video of our own planet, and today is releasing the first of that footage.
Anyone will be able to watch live footage from these cameras in about six weeks, when UrtheCast opens up its web platform to the public, according to a company spokesman. They hope the footage will be used for monitoring the environment, humanitarian relief and social events.
UrtheCast’s Iris high-definition cameras were mounted on the exterior of the ISS during two separate spacewalks by Russian astronauts in December 2013 and January 2014. The camera can capture 60 seconds of high-definition video at a time, using a push broom method of capturing images. This means the camera’s image sensors are arranged perpendicular to the ISS’ flight path, and as the station moves, it exposes all of the sensors.
The ISS is also outfitted with UrtheCasts’ medium definition cameras, called Theia, with traditional CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) sensors. These are capable of sweeping long swaths of the Earth, and can capture about 29 million sq. km per day.